Blues out to overcome loss of key AFL duo

Carlton's AFL list is finally settled but the question remains: can they get better with Bryce Gibbs and Sam Docherty out of the picture?

The loss of such a valuable duo - one by design, the other through ill fortune - is a grim omen which threatens to haunt a young Blues side bursting with potential.

Docherty will miss the entire season after rupturing his anterior cruciate ligament, while Gibbs will line up for the Crows after being granted a long-sought trade back to his native South Australia.

The departure of Gibbs will inevitably add to the heavy midfield load shouldered by Marc Murphy and Patrick Cripps, while 2016 best-and-fairest Docherty's rebound out of the backline will be sorely missed.

So why should Blues fans be optimistic after last year's 16th-placed finish?

It all comes down to two things: the sheer number of talented youngsters across every part of the ground and the disciplined, defence-first system that coach Brendon Bolton has drilled into them.

"Coming from Hawthorn, I'm well aware that you need a really strong system because the best players won't always be out there," assistant coach Cameron Bruce told AAP.

"That was highlighted by a (Lance) Franklin going, Sam Mitchell being injured for long periods, Josh Gibson missing big chunks of seasons.

"If you're reliant on individuals, then it's going to be hard to have real success for a long period.

"What I've seen here is an environment that's been able to maintain its high level of performance regardless of personnel, even with very, very influential players within the competition not being there."

While Gibbs will be hard to replace, the Blues are confident they have sufficient midfield depth.

Cripps is the key - a 195cm midfield beast with an enormous appetite for the contested ball and the ability to swing forward and kick goals.

The addition of Darcy Lang from Geelong and former Giant Matthew Kennedy will help, while top draftees Paddy Dow and Lochie O'Brien appear primed for action alongside second-year star Sam Petrevski-Seton.

And few sides have the luxury of young talls as good as Jacob Weitering, Jack Silvagni and Charlie Curnow, who has shown signs of becoming a dominant key forward.

Weitering was used as a swingman last year but is set to play primarily in the backline, despite a lack of scoring being a key issue for Bolton's side.

"I think everyone's well aware of the improvement needed there," Bruce said.

"We've tried to build layers in our offensive game to complement the really solid defensive game that Bolts has established with this group."

Entering his third season in charge, Bolton should benefit from newfound stability after years of significant list changes.

More than 40 players have been turned over during Bolton's reign, and the Blues list includes 20 players who started at other clubs.

The off-season recruitment of backline coach Bruce and forwards coach David Teague from Hawthorn and Adelaide respectively should also encourage some fresh thinking as the Blues look to snap a five-year finals drought.

"Three years of significant list changes has meant that it was probably harder to have (synergy) but now we want to have that," Bruce said.

"We're working on all phases of the game and we're hungry to get better.

"We don't want to put a ceiling on what we can achieve going forward but everything that's being put in place is suggesting that we're going to improve."


Coach: Brendon Bolton

Captain: Marc Murphy

Last five years: 6-13-18-14-16

Premierships: 16 (1906, 1907, 1908, 1914, 1915, 1938, 1945, 1947, 1968, 1970, 1972, 1979, 1981, 1982, 1987, 1995).

Key five: Patrick Cripps, Marc Murphy, Jacob Weitering, Charlie Curnow, Matthew Kreuzer.

One to watch: Paddy Dow. The No.3 draft pick showed great signs in his first hitout for the Blues, slotting two goals in their trial match victory over St Kilda. Likely to be a dynamic midfield addition with his ability to burst forward from stoppages.

Ins: Darcy Lang (Geelong), Matthew Kennedy (GWS), Matthew Lobbe (Port Adelaide), Aaron Mullett (North Melbourne), Matt Shaw (Gold Coast), Cam O'Shea (Northern Blues VFL), Cillian McDaid (County Galway, Ireland), Paddy Dow (Bendigo U18), Lochie O'Brien (Bendigo U18), Tom De Koning (Dandenong U18), Angus Schumacher (Bendigo U18), Jarrod Garlett (South Fremantle WAFL).

Outs: Bryce Gibbs (Adelaide), Dennis Armfield (retired), Daniel Gorringe (retired), Matthew Korcheck (retired), Kristian Jaksch (delisted), Liam Sumner (delisted), Dylan Buckley (delisted), Ciaran Sheehan (delisted), Rhys Palmer (retired), Andrew Galluci (delisted), Blaine Boekhorst (delisted), Simon White (delisted), Billie Smedts (delisted).

Best line-up:

B: Lachie Plowman, Liam Jones, Caleb Marchbank

HB: Kade Simpson, Jacob Weitering, Tom Williamson

C: Sam Petrevski-Seton, Patrick Cripps, Dale Thomas

HF: Jarrod Pickett, Charlie Curnow, Jack Silvagni

F: Matthew Wright, Harry McKay, Levi Casboult

R: Matthew Kreuzer, Marc Murphy, Ed Curnow

Int: Paddy Dow, Jarrod Garlett, Matthew Kennedy, Darcy Lang

Predicted finish: 16th

Betting (William Hill)

To win the flag: $126

To make the top eight: $6